District Court House

Traveling north on the Lower Mall Road, at the junction between the Upper and Lower Mall Roads, you will find Nasir Bagh on your right, a reminder of the early British cantonment that was established here. This garden, which has been known variously as Anarkali Garden, Kumpany Bagh, Soldier's Garden and Gol Bagh (now named after Jamal Abdul Nasir of Egypt), is well maintained.

Driving past the neo-Gothic Government College with its enormous tower, you will need to turn left into a large compound where the impressive District Courts or the office of the Deputy Commissioner is situated. The site, part of the old Anarkali Cantonment, was situated opposite the Gymnasium (old Presbyterian Church). To make space for the Saddar Kachahri of Lahore District—as the District Courts were known—many of the barracks had to be demolished, as indeed had been the fate of several Mughal structures when the first British cantonment was laid out in 1845. Kannhaiya Lal, executive engineer in charge, praises the pleasant verdant grounds full of old trees, where the District Courts were constructed in 1870 at a cost of Rs. 100,000.

Designed in a 'U' shape with a footprint of 233' x 227', its three wings border the periphery of the open space. The centre of the long frontage is defined by a commodious porch, used by the DC, whose buggy would stand waiting for the sahib to finish his work. The porch leads across the verandah to the court with a raised dais for use of the Deputy Commissioner. The remaining portions of the building contain offices of the Assistant Commissioner and Extra Assistant Commissioner etc., as well as the offices of District Superintendent of Police.

The District Courts is the first building in Lahore which exhibits Italian Renaissance influence, a style popularly referred to as Italianate'. Built with exposed red brick masonry, the design of the facade relies on simple arcading, defined with simple moldings and keystones. The repetitive utilization of Roman arches supported on massive piers on the ground and twin columns on the first floor verandahs lends the facade a transparent air, at the same time providing the much needed shade to rooms accessed from them. Although simply executed, the building's lofty ceilings and neatly laid brick make a combination for an extremely impressive structure. A projecting chajja, supported on molded corbelled brackets, formed with red stone, terminates the first floor roof.

An invaluable treasure contained in this building was the archival record consisting of maps and sanads (land deeds) which had been maintained since the annexation of the Punjab, which was unfortunately lost as a result of arson by an unruly mob in 1998.

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